If you want to quibble with President Obama’s State of the Union address last night, feel free. This is a free country, after all, even if the right wing would like for everyone to be less free. But the speech was masterful for two reasons. First, it laid out a bold vision for the future that every progressive should be excited about. But just as importantly, it used the Republican Party’s own rhetoric to frame the issues, which means they'll have to abandon the few principles they have left, to attack Obama. This should make progressives downright giddy.
Yet, my Twitter feed has been chock full of naysayers this morning; mostly, they’re self-professed “progressives” who are managing to twist themselves into something of a pretzel shape in order to backhand President Obama for not being perfect. The professional left have been particularly harsh.
Arianna Huffington, for example, Tweeted the following first thing this morning:
A speech that ran for about 90 minutes, and THAT was what she took out of it? And isn’t she supposed to be a great journalism mogul these days? She actually had to take the quote completely out of context in order to take a swipe at the president. Here is the quote in its proper context from a transcript of the State of the Union Address:
The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe. Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever. Our ties to the Americas are deeper. Our iron-clad commitment to Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history. We've made it clear that America is a Pacific power, and a new beginning in Burma has lit a new hope. From the coalitions we've built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we've led against hunger and disease; from the blows we've dealt to our enemies; to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back.
Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're talking about. That's not the message we get from leaders around the world, all of whom are eager to work with us. That's not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin; from Cape Town to Rio; where opinions of America are higher than they've been in years. Yes, the world is changing; no, we can't control every event. But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs – and as long as I'm President, I intend to keep it that way.
Yes, that’s right; the woman who has control of a significant journalism enterprise actually had to take a quote referring to American global leadership, and apply it to domestic issues.
The fact of the matter is, America’s prestige was greatly damaged by the Bush Administration, and the black eye that was left by those clowns on the world stage for eight years has largely been healed over the past three. THAT was what Obama was referring to, as is clear when you bother to look at the context.
Say, aren’t journalists supposed to include context in their reporting? More importantly, if someone has to take a quote OUT of context in order to make a point, is that criticism valid at all?
The FACT is, President Obama acknowledged that we still suck, domestically speaking. And he offered a number of initiatives, in the form of tax breaks for those who bring manufacturing here and the elimination of rules that allow American companies to locate offshore and avoid taxes in their own country.
But what bothers me most about the Tweet is that it actually implies that President Obama is the one responsible for “23 million” being unemployed or under-employed. That is obviously false, and that is what people see when they read Huffington’s crap. The constant negativity and the false narratives play to the Republicans’ major strategy, which is to depress turnout. Depressed turnout makes their solidly fanatical minority more powerful, and makes it more likely that Republicans will make gains again in 2012.
Then there is Michael Moore.
I actually like Michael Moore. I know he doesn’t think I do about now, but this blog deals with real politics, and he only seems to have one foot in the real world. I have no doubt that he really cares about the poor. But his political instincts just plain suck, and much of what he does actually leads to more right wing influence, not less.
He’s made a few silly Tweets since the State of the Union, but this one shows just how important it seems to be for everyone on the professional left to make a dig at President Obama, even when they’re complimenting him. That would be okay, if the dig was actually true.
The truth is, Michael, that given Iran’s history and their current leadership, war IS an option. It will always be an option with them, because they are not above threatening to start one. Also, if you knew anything about dealing with the Middle East, you would know that leaderships in the region always have to leave the possibility of war on the table. If you don’t understand why, I suggest you teach yourself some history.
It’s a mischaracterization of what Obama said in two ways. The president didn’t imply that war was not off the table, he stated it outright, as any good political leader would with a country like Iran. I know some progressives only want to think of puppies and kittens and unicorns who fart glitter, but we live in the real world, in which bad guys want to get their hands on nuclear weapons so they can sell them to other bad guys, or use them themselves. That’s the real world.
But read what Obama actually said in the State of the Union address:
And we will safeguard America's own security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests. Look at Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran's nuclear program now stands as one. The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent. Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.
Can you imagine ANY Republican running for reelection making such a statement? Again, in context, he DID threaten them with anything he had to do to keep them from getting a nuclear weapon (which is rational), but he also offered them an olive branch at the same time. Yet, Michael can apparently only hear the threat of war, and not the offer of peace because, for whatever reason, he seems to have to bash President Obama every chance he gets. It almost seems pathological to these folks.
When did it become de rigueur for the professional left to say something bad about President Obama every chance they get? They have to be under the impression it resonates with progressives, or raises the “street cred” factor among lefties. But we can’t afford this anymore, folks. This is how we ended up with teabaggers running the damn Congress. This is why President Obama can push forth a comprehensive jobs bill, and Republicans can simply refuse to pass it. This is how we got Governors like Walker, Daniels and Scott.
Our side sucks at politics, and Republicans have come to depend on it.
It’s time we all started putting pressure on professional lefties, and got them to at least tell the truth. Just as importantly, they all know the choice for president will be between Obama and either Romney or Gingrich, so what’s the point of habitually trying to put the president in a bad light? Do they really think putting Romney or Gingrich into the White House will make the country more progressive? Republicans have been winning most elections for 32 years now; how much longer are progressives willing to wait? Do you really imagine the Occupy movement will be able to convince either Gingrich or Romney to put moderates on the Supreme Court? And who do you think they’ll drag into Congress with them if we depress turnout enough for them to win again? Gosh, yes; what this country needs is more teabaggers.
Words matter. Rhetoric matters. And most of all, the TRUTH matters. And they all matter because the American people matter, and the people need progressives to take their turn at bat and run the show. We have to become smarter, politically. And that means taking everything a self-proclaimed “progressive” tells you with a grain of salt, and check the facts before drawing conclusions. Yes, folks, that includes me. No one is always right; always check facts. Believing everything the professional left says just makes you gullible, not smarter.
The professional left is not your friend.